Graphic design is all around us, in a myriad of forms, both on screen and in print, yet it is always made up of images and words to create a communication goal. This four-course sequence exposes students to the fundamental skills required to make sophisticated graphic design: process, historical context, and communication through image-making and typography. The sequence is completed by a capstone project that applies the skills of each course and peer feedback in a finished branding project suitable for a professional portfolio. The goal of this specialization is to equip learners with a set of transferable formal and conceptual tools for “making and communicating” in the field of graphic design. This core skill set will equip learners for formal studies in graphic design, and a starting point for further work in interface design, motion graphics, and editorial design.
Course 1: Fundamentals of Graphic Design
- Graphic Design is all around us! Words and pictures—the building blocks of graphic design—are the elements that carry the majority of the content in both the digital world and the printed world. As graphic design becomes more visible and prevalent in our lives, graphic design as a practice becomes more important in our culture. Through visual examples, this course will teach you the fundamental principles of graphic design: imagemaking, typography, composition, working with color and shape... foundational skills that are common in all areas of graphic design practice. I don't just want you to watch a video of someone talking about design, I want you to MAKE design! If you want to be a designer you have to be a maker and a communicator, so this course will offer you lots of opportunities to get your hands dirty with exercises and with more practical projects. At the end of this course you will have learned how to explore and investigate visual representation through a range of image-making techniques; understand basic principles of working with shape, color and pattern; been exposed to the language and skills of typography; and understand and have applied the principles of composition and visual contrast. If you complete the course, along with its optional (but highly recommended) briefs, you will have a core set of graphic design skills that you can apply to your own projects, or to more deeply investigate a specialized area of graphic design. To succeed in this course you will need access to a computer. You can complete this course without one but it will be tougher. Access to, and a beginner's level knowledge of Adobe Creative Suite programs, such as Illustrator, Photoshop and InDesign will help you, especially if you want to complete the optional briefs.
Course 2: Introduction to Typography
- Typography is the art of manipulating the visual form of language to enrich and control its meaning. It’s an essential area of skill and knowledge for graphic designers. Typography predates modern graphic design by around 500 years; it is rich in rules, conventions, and esoteric terminology—but it remains an exciting space for invention and expression. In this rigorous introductory course, we will study, name, and measure the characteristics of letterforms. We’ll consider the pragmatic concerns involved in selecting and combining type. We’ll peek into the
rich historical, cultural, and aesthetic histories of familiar typefaces. We’ll discuss time-tested conventions and best practices in setting type, as governed by principles of hierarchy and spatial organization. And we’ll explore the expressive, meaning-making potential of type. Informative lectures will be complemented by a series of three peer-assessed assignments, culminating
in an opportunity to design a full-scale typographic poster. Please note that this is not a software course; a basic working knowledge of Adobe InDesign or other
page layout software will be assumed. You will need access to a computer and page layout software, such as InDesign, to complete the assignments.
Course 3: Introduction to Imagemaking
- This course for serious makers, and for students new to imagemaking. Imagemaking is a fluid and exciting area of graphic design that comes out of practice and process: experimenting fearlessly, showing and sharing ideas, and giving and receiving knowledgeable and constructive input. For the sake of this online platform, we have applied some structure to our investigations, but for the most part imagemaking is loose and unstructured. If we must adopt a rule in this course it is only this: you will not become a graphic designer by watching videos alone. Or, don't just make stuff just in your head. So here, the focus here is on making, and you are expected to devote serious time and intellectual energy to that activity in this course. Specifically, you will: - experiment with a range of materials and techniques to make images for graphic design - expand your visual vocabulary both in terms of making and talking about work, in order to discuss your work and work of others - learn how to make, manipulate and arrange images to create compositions, eventually culminating in the design and production of an-image-based book. The first half of the course is an opportunity to experiment and explore imagemaking in order to expand your visual vocabulary. You will create pieces that are expressive, meditative, or 'design-y' to instigate, evoke, experiment, record, explain, or try out a media. In the second two weeks, we’ll invite the images to deliberately and intentionally carry meaning and communication through relational moves like juxtaposition, composition, and context. We’ll look at developing and expanding the range of approaches for putting things together by composing page spreads with your images. Since nothing exists without context, we look at how to intentionally drive the image’s connotations, meanings, and associations generated through elements of composition and “visual contrasts.” Ultimately, we will take the images that you create and make a book from them. The results of your assignments (and experiments) may generate something completely unknowable now or in the future—and that's the goal.
Course 4: Ideas from the History of Graphic Design
- This condensed survey course focuses on four key periods or themes from the history of design. Together we’ll trace the emergence of design as a recognized practice, why things look the way they do, and how designers approached specific design problems in their work. Each week, a short quiz will test your knowledge of concepts, and a short reflective assignment will give you the opportunity to analyze the questions designers ask themselves today. This is an essential course for emerging designers entering the field, or for students interested in learning more about visual culture and analysis. No previous experience is required.
Course 5: Brand New Brand
- This course is the culmination of the Graphic Design Specialization and gives you an opportunity to tie together your knowledge and skills into a single project: a brand development guide for a company you will invent. This course takes you through the entire design process, from ideation to creation to presentation. Through the guide, you will be creating and giving a visual identity to an imaginary start-up company, and applying that visual identity to a number of forms. You will also develop a logotype and accompanying graphic palette to visually represent your company, as well as apply that design to a number of different applications to see it at work. Note: Only learners who have earned a certificate in the four previous courses in the Specialization are eligible to take the Capstone.
Anther Kiley, Gail Swanlund, Lorraine Wild, Louise Sandhaus and Michael Worthington